In 2012, the city of Amsterdam launched the Light Festival. Returning every year, it showcases the work of artists who work with light. There is a yearly theme that connects all the different works. Since its beginning, it has been a huge success. You can walk the route along the inner city section where the installations are built up, or you can view them from a boat. In my opinion, this is by far the best way to experience the festival. If the weather cooperates, it is a great way to spend an evening with family or friends. Bringing a camera makes it even more enjoyable.
Shooting light installations from a moving boat isn't always ideal. If you want to get the most out of your photography, take the walking tour and bring a tripod. But then again, if taking photos is a serendipitous activity while enjoying the works of art in good company, you will simply have to make the most out of it. The photo below was taken during this year's edition. The theme of the current edition is 'imagine beyond'. This can be interpreted in many ways, the artist behind the installation below tried to create a contrast between fire and water. The lightness of the Leica Q made it easy for me to hold the camera just above the water surface to get as much of the reflection in the frame.
Many artists over the years played with perspective, as the visitors will always be in motion while watching the installations, whether it be by foot or on the water. One example is captured in the next photo. Multiple lit panels would create a dog's face but only when seen from a specific viewpoint. This time I was on foot and used the opportunity to keep my shutter open a bit longer to capture the movement in front of the panels.
One of the installations that stuck with me was one called 'surface tension'. It was built in one of the canals behind the Zoo, which also has a few houseboats. The installation was a collection of everyday traffic scenes but done in a way as if everything is flooded and only the top is visible above the water. In a city like Amsterdam which itself sits below sea level, this sent a very strong message.
Every artist has a clear story behind the installation they make, but not all come across. One that did was a work that used an old crane, trying to unravel a ball of yarn that represents the origin of time. It worked because the artist used the objects around the canal to connect to the ball of yarn which was placed in the canal itself. The red color worked great in this dimly lit part of Amsterdam's canal network.
I have saved the best for last. This installation was featured twice at the festival. It made a come-back appearance during the 'best-of' edition to celebrate the ten-year mark. It was called 'Whole hole' and the work of the two Dutch artists invoked an eerie experience by lighting up one of the many shallow bridges on the side canals of the main Amstel rivers. You would enter this smaller canal from the wider water of the Amstel and that created the feeling of going through a tunnel or entering a black hole.
The Light Festival has become part of the fabric of the city and every year, Amsterdammers are keen to see what the different artists have come up with.